Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, December 11th, 2007
Chinese imports put squeeze on Syrian merchants (Thanks Ehsani)
11 Dec, 2007, AGENCIES DAMASCUS:
Syrian tailor Adel looked around at the sewing machines lying silent inside his once-thriving shop in Damascus and wondered whether this month's books would balance. He was forced to sack six of his eight staff in October in yet another example of the financial pressure put on Syria's small manufacturers by the influx of cheap Chinese imports. I couldn't carry on piling up these losses," he explained to AFP. "I used to make jackets at a cost price of around 900 (Syrian) pounds (18 dollars). Now you can find jackets at the market made in China which are a third of the price."
The phenomenon of cheap Far East-manufactured products putting the squeeze on small producers has long been recognised in the West, but is a new shock for Syrian manufacturers.
"Dozens of small workshops have been forced to close," the private weekly newspaper Al-Borsat Wal-Aswak said on December 2.
It denounced the "greed" of large traders who were growing rich at the expense of small shops, which are unable to compete with Chinese low prices.
"They make up to 400 percent profits. They flood the markets with Chinese products" without a thought for the social consequences, said the paper.
Scores of street stalls have sprung up under the banner of "Chinese Markets" throughout Damascus's commercial district, offering everything from arts and crafts items to hi-tech goods.
"For some, these products are synonymous with fashion, for others they are just junk," said George, a civil servant, delighted to see that his 250-dollar salary now allows him to splash out on a few extra luxuries.
It has become impossible to escape the power of the "Made in China" production steamroller. Chinese products have swept into every sector of Syrian commerce, including traditional craft goods.
"The Chinese copy everything. They make shoddy goods which people buy because they are cheap," said a trader on Kassaa Street, a commercial hub at the hear of the Christian district of Damascus.
Traces of the Chinese takeover during the Christmas period are to be found everywhere.
Shelves are full of garlands, silver-plated candles, gilded cherubs and Christmas tree baubles. And nothing seems to be without the tiny "made in China" sticker.
The arrival of this merchandise onto the Syrian market is relatively recent.
Damascus only approved Chinese imports in 2000, said a shopkeeper in Al-Harir silk souk where the precious fabric is slowly being replaced by plastic flowers and Chinese fakes.
And the future for China in Syria looks no less rosy. According to a Chinese diplomat the balance of trade between the two countries amounted to 1.7 billion dollars in 2007, of which only 100 million dollars was made up of exports from Syria to China.